FA should show racism – not Ricketts – the red card

Let us start today’s article on the red card for Donovan Ricketts for making an obscene gesture to Southend United fans who were racially abusing him with a couple of assumptions. Firstly that Donovan did make some kind of offensive gesture which could be classed a red cards offence under Rule 12.6 of Football which reads “Uses offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures” – and I would not bet my mortgage that the level-headed Christian did – and that we all accept that Racism is wrong and has no place in society and in football.

With this in mind one is left with a curious call to make to the footballing authorities and a call that City are trying to make. That Ricketts’s offences are mitigated by circumstance. That the referee should “look the other way” and the game should rescind the red card on the basis that Ricketts had a right to be upset at the treatment he was getting.

For there are very few that would suggest that Ricketts should be forced to turn the other cheek to the abuse he was getting – although ironically Ricketts is one who would say he should – and accept in full belief that justice would be done on the perpetrator. In short very would say that Donovan Ricketts should stand and be called racist names and grin his oft seen smile to bare it.

However football and yesterday’s match referee and assistant suggest he should.

Likewise few would suggest that the best course of action for a footballer is to start getting involved in personal spats with spectators. Obscene gestures are liable to inflame a crowd and cause a wider problem and rightly are heavily discouraged in football and by the laws of the game. Assuming that Donovan Ricketts did make an offensive or insulting or abusive gesture to the supporters who seemingly were perfectly prepared to stand next to a man who would dish out racist abuse and not shun him then his red card is as clearly laid out in the rules of the game as the fact a goal is awarded when the ball goes in the net.

City have encountered this problem before. Unlike the majority of footballers our own Dean Windass has worked on a building site and uses the kind of language he would there on the field of play and is sent off for it all too frequently and often as a pre-cursor to my rants about how unfair such decisions are being applied to Windass, to the likes of John Hartson, to Craig Bellamy, but never to players who have not been tagged as “evil”.

An evenhanded approach to those rules would give Windass and Ricketts a red card every time.

However football rules are not applied even handed and as a game we recognise the need for refereeing flexibility.

Of course this is most often applied to headline decisions such as dismissals and is the subject of much debate but it is also applied liberally almost every minute of every game. Referees giving throw ins when offences committed would merit free kicks were they in the middle of the pitch but one method of restarting allows the game to flow more. Referees calling time when the ball is stuck in one corner and injury time is ebbing away because it saves the nastiness of Paul Linwood and Lewis Emanuel in the FA Cup this season.

Goal kicks taken from one side because the footing is better. Fouls and obstructions going unpunished because a goalkick is better reward. Looking at the individual decisions in a game one can see that even-handedly accurate application often comes second to flowing football. To what is the right thing to do. The right thing for the good of the game.

So what we have is the same kind of dichotomy between doing what is right and referees to adjudicate the mitigation of the offence in relation to the decision given use doing what is given under the rules and like the examples above a sliding scale. We are going to make another assumption being that the referee was not stupid nor was he ignorant to the idea that racism in football grounds still exists and thus what we have is the official deciding that said mitigation does not justify action on Ricketts’s part.

We have a man telling a man that he is wrong to react negatively to racism. In the year 2005 we have a man telling Ricketts he should accept racism.

The idea is so sickening – so backwards – that it is barely worth discussing in any other way that to say that the back pedalling after Saturday should be so fast as to make one’s head spin.

City can’t be given back the game we were leading 1-0 with eleven men but we can get Ricketts back at the behest of the FA who can use this as an opportunity to say that football will not be a party to racism and will not – by punishing those who complain about racism – give tacit agreement with the racists. The racist at Southend was identified and arrested but his actions had already hit their target. Ricketts was rattled. Rattled enough to lose his head and give some gesture to the visiting supporters. If the FA press ahead with the three game ban for City’s keeper then they are rubber stamping that racism and giving a big thumbs up for racist supporters to do it again. After all it clearly worked in the case of Donovan Ricketts and – should the Shrimpers find that a point is the difference between one thing and another this season it will have worked for them too.

I do not have much faith in the FA but I think I can trust them to not side with the racists.

The FA run campaigns saying they will give racism the red card. If they want to put that promise into practice Donovan Ricketts has one they can re-distribute.